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Amber India at Santana Row – A Review July 9, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Bay Area, Food, India, Review , 1 comment so far

I have mentioned Amber India several times in my reviews about Indian restaurants in Bay Area, however i never got to doing a detailed review of Amber. Amber is a brand name for Indian food on one side and to many Indians it is not an Indian food restaurant at all. Yours truly being one of the many who never choose Amber for Indian food. With my (negative) bias put aside, I initiate my full review of Amber:

Date: July 6, 2008

Time: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Address:  377 Santana Row, Ste 1140

City: San Jose, CA 95128, USA 

Tel: # ( 408 ) 248 5400

Restaurant Name: Amber India (Everyone pronounces it as Amber (the color), but to an Indian it is Amber (pronounced as Um ber – meaning Sky). The roof decoration with a star lit night sky puts the intent of the owners clearly and literally.

Location & Address: On Santana Row, San Jose. My rating: 10/10. You just can’t beat it. Ample parking too.

Food/ Menu: Indian and/or Americanized Indian/ Multi cuisine. My rating 4/10 very confusing, unstructured and lacking character. If Pindi Channa and Karavali Shrimps are in the same menu something has to be horribly wrong. Pindi Channa is supposed to be a take off on White Garbanzo or Chick Peas which are native to RawalPindi region of Punjab (the part of Punjab in Pakistan). http://www.mapsofworld.com/pakistan/pakistan-political-map.html   In the state of Punjab/ Pakistan. Rawalpindi is popularly known as Pindi. My mother was born and brought up in Pindi, I know my Pindi Channa – Pindi choley – or Chitey Choley as it is called in pindieven today. So if you go to Rawalpindi ask for Chitey Choley and not Pindi Channa. Karavali Shrimps are a take off on the Canara region of the state of Karnataka in southern India. Canara region comprises of the three coastal districts of Karnataka (Between Goa and Kerala on the western coastline of India). http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/karnataka/karnataka.htm food from Uttar Kannad, Shimoga and Dakshin Kannad is commonly referred to as Coastal Kanada food or Coasatal Karantaka food, or Karavali or Canara food or Mangalorian cuisine. Karavali style of cuisine has influence of both Goan and Kerala style of cooking and has liberal coconut flavor to everything. I very strongly feel that putting these two distinct signature items from their respective regions on a single menu in the city of San Jose in California, is more of opportunism than culinary challenge.

Pindi Channas were not Pindi Channas because the Garbanzo beans are little different than Indian Chick Peas and they were not soaked overnight in milk and water or even only water, or kept under moist muslin cloth for two days. Pindi Channas need to be slightly white in color as a dish not jet black what we got on our table.

Karavali Shrimps were not Karavali Shrimps. Amber India’s website claims Karavli Shrimps to be “Our signature recipe of stir-fried shrimps flavored with curry leaves and black pepper”,  curry leaves fine, black pepper fine but what is paste made of onions, tomatoes, and practically every Indian masala doing out there. That’s not what the description reads. At least I couldn’t find the coastal kanadatouch in the paste or in the shrimps, it was spicy with little more than usual salt. I remember the flavor of paste but not that of the shrimps. Curry leaves and black pepper should have highlighted the flavor  of very fine quality of shrimps which were used, but it just didn’t. On our table was an (by heritage) Irish/American, a  Malayali, a Bengali and a Punjabi. The Irish/ American couldn’t finish even the one piece he had taken, the Bengali and the Malayali choose not to take second helping, the Punjabi on the table of course had the second helping (after scrubbing the paste).

Ambiance: Excellent. The best for any Indian restaurant in the bay area. My rating 10/10.

Format: A la carte, full service. my rating 10/10

Drinks:Mango Lassi, Lemonade, Heineken – No issues. My rating 8/10.

Appetizers: Karavali ShrimpsExplained in food 3/10, if your guest just leaves it after eating one morsel, it just can’t be more than that. My 2 cents, if you are by heritage Indian go infor it, otherwise best avoided. Goan Steamed Mussels: They were in Goan gravy, they were steamed and they were fine mussels. My rating 9/10. I just loved them. Tandoori Appetizer Platter: Shrimps were good, Chciken (I am told was) excellent, Lamb (I am told was) horrible. My rating 6/10

Main Course: Mint Salmon Tikka: From no angle an Indian dish, except for the tikka word in its name. OK taste 4/10.

 Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani – was good, but I am told Tandoori Oven in downtown San Jose makes it better 7/10.

Bombay Fish Masala – Sea Bass in tomato & onion thick Garvy, very tasty and well cooked, my rating if you don’t look at authenticity as an Indian cuisine 10/10. 

Pindi Channa – I didn’t like it at all. Was left on the table too. Rajjot on Wolfe Road is my best choice. My rating 1/10.

Breads: Lacha parantha, Garlic naan. My rating 6/10.

Dessert: Gulab Jamuns were very nice. As they were not stuffed, I would say my rating is 9/10.

Interior: Nice and functional – My rating 8/10.

Tables: Comfortable 8/10

Cooling: About 75 (F) could be lower. 8/10

Rates: At about 15% to 20% lower this place would have been a good value for money. My rating 6/10.

Why go:Ambiance; Location; Americanized Indian Food, Something for everyone

Why Think Twice: If you want to eat what you love and you know how it should be made and how it should taste. Names and preparations can be misleading and authentic Indian food lovers may just avoid.

Coffee Company – Pleasanton, CA May 28, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Coffee, Food, Review , add a comment

Thank you GPS. I was driving back from Sacramento to San Jose with Mini and Mishti and we needed to go to restroom and some coffee. I didn’t want to go to Starbucks. All Food option on my GPS had the first listing as Coffee Co., my first thought was maybe Starbucks has not paid to Garmin for branding so they have just mentioned as Coffee Company, I was wrong. This is not Starbucks and it is Coffee Company, which serves Coffee with coffee. LoL.

Where? Coffee Company, 5424 Sunol Blvd. #7, Pleasanton, CA. (925) 462 5567

What we had? House Blend, Coffee with Coffee, Caffe Latte – House Blend, Apple Juice (bought out product),  Blueberry Bran and Walnut Banana Cake

How was it? Great, Fabulous, Outstanding

Ambiance & Decor: Has a distinct feel and the soul of the shop reflects. Place to go for a leisurely cup of coffee with your loved ones.

When to go? When you want coffee and not Starbucks.Cakes were good, you actually eat the cake and not the sugar… LoL..

Service: Very personalized and very warm. You just don’t want to leave.

 

Fresh: Absolutely fresh coffee and freshly baked cakes/ muffins.

Do we recommend? Yes. You must go if you are in Pleasanton and what you need is a cup of coffee.

When not to go?  If In hurry, this place may not work well. If you want a process based, factory experience of having Coffee, this would not work  atall.

Recommended for: Those who want to have a leisurely cup of coffee over a chat.

More to come…

 

Indian Restaurants in Bay Area May 25, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , add a comment

Today Mini & seltf invited our fiends over for a Dinner. It was tough to choose from the seven eating places which are always talked about – Rajjot, Amber, Shagun, Dasaprakash, Tandoori Oven, Sarvana Bhawan and Udipi. My selection process worked like this:

Rajjot – Great food, but you just can’t take anyone there, it remains the most famous hole in a wall.

Amber – Continues to be the best brand for Indian food, with nothing authentic Indian about it – American Indian is the closest you can put it.

Shagun – Great ambiance, unpredictable food quality – too risky.

Sarvana Bhawan – I’ve not been there but drilling down revealed major service time issues.

Udipi – Becomes too noisy, doesn’t represent India in true light.

Tandoori Oven – No table orders, place order at the counter takes formal dinning pleasure away.

Dasaprakash – Best choice scenario. By course serving would have been a better format, but they are not staffed adequately for that so they get everything together.

Thanks Romit for introducing me to Dasaprakash and encouraging me to try them even on a weekend. Dasaprakash I conclude, is the best case scenario despite the fact that it has no drinks and no meat. 

More to come…

Fujiya Chinese and Japanese Restaurant – Review May 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review, Uncategorized , add a comment

February 26,  1985 was my first time at Fujiya and yesterday was the last.

Date: May 19, 2008

Time: 8:45 pm to 10:20 pm

City: New Delhi

Address: Community Centre, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri

Country: India

Restaurant: Fujiya Chinese & Japanese

Occasion: Invite from a cousin

Location: Next to Carmel Convent School, Malcha Marg, New Delhi 110026

Drinks: Coke – No Issues; Fresh Lime Soda – You just can’t make it better.

Format – Comfortable sitting, table service.

Starters: Golden Fried Jumbo Prawns – Their Jumbos are really Jumbos, served four pieces, thy are just superb; Chicken Drum Sticks – 8 pieces 2 kids, nothing left, one didn’t have to tell the kids to clean the bones, all done all set; Button Mushrooms – very good. Dry Chili Chicken – They don’t have it as menu item in starters, but they provide on request – very good.

Main Course: Veg Hakka Noodles – They are Chinese and not Punjabi in taste; American Chopsuey – It is crispy with right portion of vegetables and sauce which doesn’t make it soggy till very end. Portions are good; Whole Red Snapper – Red Snapper is one of my favorites and the way serve with thick gravy and vegetables, it is just awesome.

Water: Buying bottled water recommended, they have Catch Brand, which is among the best.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Ample parking available bang outside the door, lunch time parking could be tough.

Ambiance: Simple and functional.

Interior: Just fine for this price range, could be better.

Tables: Functional, Clean hot plates.

Cooling: Excellent

Acoustics:  Very good acoustics, doesn’t become noisy. 

Staff Attitude: Caring and excellent to regulars.

Service: Quick and courteous.

Washroom: Not up-to the mark, but clean nevertheless.

Rates: About Rs 600.00/ $15 per-head. 

Why Go: Food, Reputation, Rates, Central Delhi Location, Authentic

Why Think Twice: Interiors

Barbeque Nation Restaurant – A Review May 18, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Barbecue, City, Food, Review , 5comments

Date: May 18, 2008

Time: 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm

City: New Delhi (Janak Puri Outlet)

Address: B-1/ 623 Janakpuri, (Near District Center)

Country: India

Restaurant: Barbeque Nation; Owners: Barbeque Nation Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Occasion: Sunday evening Family Dinner

Location: Bang opposite District Center Janakpuri on Shivaji Marg/ Najafgarh Road.

Map: http://www.mapsofindia.com/delhi/block-b-jankpuri.html

Drinks: Masala Cola – No issues ; Pistachio Twirl – No issues

Format – One Price buffet spread, no drinks included. Barbecue on the table.

Starters: 5 Veg and 5 Non Veg Starters – Served on the table – Directly to plates or on skewers kept on Charcoal Grill placed in the hollow center of the table:

Vegetarian Starters: Hara Seekh Kabab - totally avoidable; Mushrooms on skewers – OK; Thai Grilled Vegetables – very good; Uncut Sauteed Potatoes on skewers - very good;  Paneer Tikka - trash, poor quality of Cottage Cheese followed up with extremely poor marination. 

Non Vegetarian Starters: Chicken Kabab on skewers – OK; Mutton Seekh Kabab – all chilli no taste; Chicken Boneless tandori – Good; Fish Fry – very good; Prawns on skewers- very good.

Salads: Standard unexciting spread with an exception of Corn Salad. 

Main Course Buffet (Non Veg Menu) Spread: Standard Upper Middle Class North Indian Shaadi Spread, looks like a roll call. 1 chicken dish (Chicken Tikka Masala) – Good; Mutton Biryani – Good; 1 mutton dish (Rogan Josh) – Good, 1 fish (Lemon Sauce) – Rubbish and hopeless and above all it was stale and real bad – had to be vomited out instantly and still live with chances of food poisoning for several hours. 

Main Course Buffet (Vegetarian Menu) Spread: Dum Daal – Regular OK; Veg Manchurian – OK; Paneer Dish – Horrible, they have a problem with their quality of Paneer; Mushroom dish – Good. Veg Biryani – Very Good; Roti & Naan – Good.

Deserts: Fresh Fruits – OK, Gulab Jamun – good; Ice cream with sauces very good.

Water: Kinley bottled water served as part of the buffet.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Valet support.

Ambiance: Very good.

Interior: Excellent for this price range.

Tables: Very Good, Plates need to be wiped once brought on the table.

Cooling: Not correct tonnage. Becomes too hot, with live grill.

Acoustics & Music: Acoustics bad, becomes very noisy, Music could be far better. 

Staff Attitude: Indifferent

Service: Very Fast but totally Unpersonalized

Washroom: Insufficient numbers and not very clean

Rates: Reasonable (at 500 + drinks in May 2008 )

Why Go: Ambiance; Location; Concept; Starters

Why Think Twice: Main Course unexciting menu; Indifferent staff and unpersonalized service; Process flawed – stale fish landed on the table, I noticed – Fish was withdrawn from the buffet for rest of our stay. Thank God.

More to come…

 

Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar May 16, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : City, Food, Golden Temple, Review , 8comments

Yesterday was a good day for me, a visit to Sri Harmandir Sahib – http://www.goldentempleimages.com always does good to me, it recharges me. As it was Sangrand, beginning of the month, even at 3:00 pm there were lots of  us for our own individual reasons.

Amritsar Airport was recently renovated you can smell it, but wait, there’s another smell and more visible changes happening. The new terminal is being demolished. A heritage oriented structure is being changed over to a swanky Iron & Glass House.  They could have retained this and made another, it would have been best. Why bring it down, and so quickly?

Ambarsar, as the locals call it, is known for Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is also known for being a foodies delight. Kundan, Kaiser, Gyan, Kanhiya, Bansal, Lubhaya are all legends. Papar and warian, a whole bazaar exists and they would gladly make you eat the raw Papar to understand how the cooked would taste. I try my level best to go to Gyan on my every visit, located at Chok Regent Cinema, Gyan to me is the finest Barfi you can have in the world, and why his lassi tastes the way it does remains a tasty mistry.

Amritsar is the city most visited by me and I am seeing the city change, the change is of course making the city yet another city of India, Amritsar is loosing its distinct character. None of the folklore lush green fields welcome you the minute you step out of the airport, it is the concrete, either done up or under construction.

The wikipedia link offers lots of information on Amritsar, but the soul of the city is missing, the information is more like 10 pages read one page written: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amritsar

So here is an attempt to define/ explain the statement which is as old as Sikhism:

Q: What is the meaning of Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar?

A: To understand it fully we must reword the sentence – Amrutsar – Sifti Da Ghar, Amrut + Sar, (as per local fokelore first hand from generational chain) Amrut (Amrit) is used here to mean Pure, Pious, Water, Nectar and Medicinal and Sar means – Sarovar or a Pond or a Pool. A rough cut  meaning of Amritsar is a “The pool of pure, clean, pious and medicinal water”. Sifti as per them stands for Adorable, Appreciation and Praise. Da of course means “is” here, and Ghar means home which is an abode.  So Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar means – ” The adorable  abode of the Pool with pure, pious and medicinal water”.

The city of Amritsar (also referred as ASR) gets its name from the Amrut Sarovar. The Amrut Sarovar’s digging on a lot of land which had a pond with medicinal values was initiated by the Fourth Guru Ram Das. The generational chain referred to earlier also substantiates that Guru Ram das initiated the same as per wishes of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji. The sarovar per se is now popularly referred to as Ram Das Sarovar. Some devotees also refer to Amritsar as Amarsar, substituting Amrit for Amar, first name of the Third Guru.

If anyone disagrees with the above interpretation, I pray with my folded hands for a submission of your revered view, and may Wahe Guru “Bhulaan Chukaan Muaf Karnian” (Forgive me for my forgetfulness and mistakes).

More to come…

Tandoori Oven – North Indian Food Restaurant, San Jose, Quick Review January 19, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , 1 comment so far

What is in a name? To me Tandoori Oven as a name of an Indian restaurant in California sounds very Californian. It’s Hybrid and people just like that. (Tandoor means oven, tandoori connotes food cooked in an oven)

So here we go:

Where: The Tandoori Oven

150 South First Street, San Jose (1) 408 392 7222

Format: Fast Food/ Counter Order Table Service 6/10

Location: Downtown San Jose - 9/10

Parking: Abundant around the area – 9/10

Menu: They got the India Map wrong…. For them the region of Punjab is on the banks of River Ganges. May God bless them, if you really care to know look at http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/india/india-political-map.htm 

Menu Rating 0/10 for getting the region wrong and 6/10 for the menu choices and options.

Ambiance -  Could be better, some Punjabi Music could have helped. 7/10,

Chicken Tikka Masala – 8/10 This is one dish which is so non Punjabi but finds itself on every menu. My friend (Mother Indian/ Father White American) really liked it, he just polished it off 8/10

Samosas – They came with Safed Channa (I prefer to call them Safed Channa and not Chitey Cholley bcause the were made in tipical (non Punjabi) UP style, though the beans were of-course closest to chitey cholley – garbanzo), portion was small, Samosas could have been slightly bigger as they are not exactly finger food, and they taste better when they are stuffed more and crust is slightly more crunchy. But they were OK. Rating 7/10

Chicken Biriyani – Portion was unending, it tasted good, good enough for my Bengali colleague who was here for the second time in one month. Rating 8/10

Karai Shrimp – I make it better, far better. The gravy was not for Shrimps. Conventional Punjabi food has nothing to do with Shrimps though but we all love our Punjabi Prawn/ Shrimp curries. Tomatto was less, Masalas were just about OK. There was no Khada Masala, as in most of the Kadai dishes, it was strangly similar to Chicken Tikka Masala Gravy.  Shrimps & Gravy were talking two absolutely different languages. It tasted fine though. I rate it 4/10, if it was called Shrimp Curry, I would have rated it 7/10

Plain Naan – You just can’t make them any better 10/10 

Basmati Rice – The rice was cooked well, but quality was not the finest. It was more of Basmati Tukda (Pieces). 7/10

Raita:  Hopeless – They just don’t know how to make it. Curd was bad, the so called homemade yogurt didn’t look like one. Masala’s were dis-proportioned.  It could be a good Dip, but Raita  – no way. 0/10

Allo Matter(Vegetable of the day)  - Just OK.  5/10

Cucumber Salad – Just OK 5/10 – I thought it would be salaad, the Punjabi version of Salad, which it was not.

Why Go? Only Indian Joint in downtown San Jose. Better than Amber, few miles away. Reasonably OK food. Not too bad prices.

Why not go? You can call it North Indian, but as they position it as Punjabi, you would be disappointed though. Food of Rajjot is far better than Tandoori Oven but Rajjot’s ambiance is zero, Amber’s food is horrible when compared to Tandoori Oven but ambiance is far better.

My 2 cents: Go grab, it looks like the best package deal in bay area for north Indian food.

Bacchus – French Restaurant Brooklyn New York – A Review January 14, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , 1 comment so far

Being a foodie is a good thing, but now  I know something better: going and declaring it. Since I started telling friends “I love good food” invites for great places have neve stopped.

Today morning my friends with their daughter took my out for a Brunch at Bacchus,

Bacchus – 409 Atlantic Avenue (718) 852 1572, New York – A French Dinning Room

Location: Good  Rating  -9/10

Parking: It’s New York 2/10

Ambiance: As French as Possible in New York 8/10

What all we ordered:

  1. Crepe Spinach & Goat Cheese – I have never had any better Crepes, and proably one can never have still 9/10
  2. Omelette Cheese & Spinach – A Decent portion came with hash browns, was well done in olive oil had a distinct taste 7/10
  3. Bread (Complimentary) White Fresh French Bread, thick crust with olive oil 8/10
  4. Green Salad with Goat Cheese – Fairly regular stuff 5/10
  5. French Fries – They were real French Fries, not what we get at Mc Donald’s and is also called French Fries. 8/10.
  6. Tea – They have a good Tea Collection. I had Green Tea with Lemon and it was nice – 8/10. Service of tea was not so good as the Pot & the Mugs were not warm enough, even if it is mild New York January is  January
  7. Coffee beans were most likely Columbia – 8/10

Why go? Real French Food. Good Service. Reasonable.

Why not go? I don’t have reason, except parking. But if you are a New Yorker, you don’t drive anyway.

 

Dasaprakash Santa Clara, Restaurant, (South) Indian Review December 25, 2007

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , 4comments

Background: A dear friend & colleague’s brother, his wife & their little daughter took me out for a Dinner on a working day. I had to fly next day morning,  they were kind enough to offer me a great Dinner at tremendous personal time adjustment. Thank you brother.

Where: 2636 Homestead Rd. Santa Clara, CA 95051
Fax: 408-246-8293 Ph: 408-46-8292

 Hospitality of my Host: 10/10

Hospitality of the Restaurant Host:  The owner cum manager is a genuine guy, affectionate, practical, unassuming. Someone who can be trusted for suggestion and would not offer it on basis of how good it is for him, but would recmmendto your taste. Rating 8/10

Service: We were on a weekday, so service was fine, but if this is this is the total staff he has then Service can be issue on weekends and other holidays.  Rating 8/10 (Remember it is a weekday) if not augmented on a holiday/weekend it can be 4/10 or even 3/10.

Menu: Regular Popular South Indian stuff, no “Speciality South Indian Dishes”, No “Speciality Chettinad”, No Aapams or even Aaplams or any other region food, staple South Indian Food, no less no more.  Menu 6/10 

Food: Whatever we ordered was Very Good, Presentation was excellent, Garnishing was good and Chutneys wre also good. However they couldn’t get me gun-powder. Food 9/10

Ambiance: About 80 covers, good interiors, not as good as Amber though, but food is far more tasty and authentic. Heating was good and so was basic flavor of the place: Ambiance: 9/10

What we ordered:

Rava Masala Dosa: 8/10

Masala Dosa: 9/10

Plain Dosa: 8/10

South Indian Thali: 9/10

Vada Sambar 8/10

Idli Sambar: 9/10

Portions: Were decent 9/10

Simar’s 2 cents: Highly Recommended for a weekday dinning, Sunday can’t comment on service level.

Overall: The restaurant scores 8/10

Why Go? Good Standard South Indian Food, Good Ambiance, Good Quality, Courteous Management

Why think twice? Service time can be an issue.

BTW: Some items were taken by my trusted foodie friend independent of me and the marks are his.

Wok in the clouds – Chinese Restaurant, New Delhi – India November 20, 2007

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , add a comment

Date: November 18, 2007

Time: 9:00 PM 

Location: Rajouri Garden, New Delhi, India – Rating 7/10

Parking: Ample & Valet – 10/10

Budget: US $ 30 for three without drinks

Cuisine: Chinese and North Indian

Covers: 200 plus Banquet section for 100

Decor: Fusion – Rating 6/10

Menu selection: Regular and nothing special

Sitting: Separate section for Family’s and stags

What ordered?

  1. Fresh Lime Soda – Rating 9/10
  2. Veg Dimsums – Portion: Generous - Food rating 7/10
  3. Chilly Mushrooms – Portion: Generous – Food Rating 5/10
  4. Lemon Coriander Soup – Portion: Generous – Food Rating 8/10
  5. Veg Hakka Noodles – Portion: More than generous – Food Rating 6/10
  6. Mix Vegetable in Hot Garlic Sauce – Portion: More than generous – Food Rating 5/10

Why Go? Location, Parking, Budget, Great Portions

Why Avoid? Yet another, Loud Music, Gets too noisy, Food is no great shakes.